James Patterson's BookShots Attracts Hollywood's Attention

He is partnering with Investigation Discovery for a true-crime TV series that also will publish as 150-page shorts. Other titles in the book series are being developed as movies and TV shows.
Getty Images
James Patterson

For James Patterson, less has definitely proved to be more. The prolific author’s BookShots imprint of 150-page novellas priced at $5 or less, which he describes as “fast-paced stories” that are “like reading a movie, three hours and you’re done,” has just sold its millionth copy since launching in June and has produced four New York Times best-sellers, including The Trial, which hit No. 1.

The success of the novellas has caught Hollywood’s attention and a flurry of BookShots-related deals has made Patterson perhaps the busiest author in film and TV. First up is a six-episode TV series in partnership with Investigation Discovery which will mine the cable net’s true-crime expertise for stories for Patterson to turn into fact-based BookShots, which will then be turned into scripted episodes of the new show.

For Investigation Discovery to “have booked this deal — no pun intended,” says Henry Schleiff, president of Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America, “was something that we thought was a natural.” He added that the partnership is “a Venn diagram of the benefits of overlapping audiences that will "bring new readers to James, and I think it will bring new viewers to ID.”

Patterson says he was excited about the chance to make a rare foray into non-fiction. “Imagine me saying this," jokes the author, 69, “but truth can definitely be stranger than fiction.” Patterson will host the show, which is set to debut in 2017, introducing each story like Alfred Hitchcock did with his eponymous 1960s series.

“We want this to shout, ‘James Patterson’s here!'” says Schlieff. The actual cases to be featured in the show haven’t yet been decided, but Schleiff suggests they would appeal to the channel’s core demo of women 25 to 54. He also says he was looking to the international audience, noting both Patterson’s international appeal and the fact that the channel is in 118 million households around the world, in addition to 85 million in the U.S.

Developing the deal for Investigation Discovery were senior vp development Jane Latman, senior vp production Sara Kozak, general manager Kevin Bennett and Schleiff. Bill Robinson and Leopoldo Gout will executive produce for James Patterson Entertainment. Patterson also is repped by CAA and Peter Grossman of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler & Feldman.

Other BookShots in development include film adaptations of the forthcoming Stealing Gulfstreams (think Fast and Furious, for planes) with Atlas Entertainment and producers Chuck Roven and Alex Gartner, French Kiss with Europa and a TV series based on The Black Book with Glenn Gordon Caron.

The buzz of activity comes as CBS also has renewed its two-year, first-look deal with Patterson. The original deal yielded the CBS summer series Zoo, which in its second season is averaging about 5.1 million viewers, and October’s Middle School movie from CBS Films, which Patterson is co-financing. “I have hesitation about putting money into Wall Street,” says Patterson, “but no hesitation about putting money into something where I really have quite a lot of influence, and I totally understand the product." The author thinks the movie could be a hit. "Middle School, I think, is really going to surprise the hell out of people," he says. "It’s really funny and it’s really touching. The idea honestly that that’s a $15 million movie is pretty shocking. There’s eight minutes of animation in it and it’s full-blown animation.”

Still other Patterson projects in development include an adaptation of his adult novel Invisible with The Conjuring producer Peter Safran and writers Chad and Carey Hayes attached, and an adaptation of Patterson's children’s novel House of Robots with Eugenio Derbez (Instructions Not Included) and Ben O’Dell attached.

Patterson says he doesn’t want to write screenplays. “I tend to be more big picture than little nitpicking,” he explained to The Hollywood Reporter, “but I’m very involved. Every script, every Zoo script, Middle School every cut, every edit.”